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Tabla Bols

What is a bol? Every stroke or sound on tabla has a corresponding word, which is called a bol. The student learns through the recitation of bols, or syllables, and thus establishes a deep aural connection between the words, the strokes, and the sound produced. These bols are combined to form phrases and whole compositions. This system of learning has existed for centuries in India and is not only an extremely effective way of absorbing and memorising material, but it is fundamental to the tabla player's thought processes and understanding.

It is because of the bol system that both hands can coordinate such complex rhythmic and melodic material. It unites the hands, it unites the mind and body, and it unites one deeply to the music itself. Through the bol system, one may hear tabla being played, (or any rhythm) and be able to instinctively convert the sound back into words, which may instantly be played on tabla. Whole phrases become recognizable, even at high speed.

Another wonderful means by which to internalize the musical form with or without the instrument, is to learn each time cycle or taal along with it's corresponding clapping pattern, and to use the Indian system of counting on the fingers.

Glen is an experienced and inspiring tabla teacher. He is currently giving tabla lessons at his home in Muko-shi, Kyoto. Tabla lessons are open to students of all ages, ranging from beginning to advanced levels. Glen takes an enjoyable, creative and flexible approach to all lessons, which are practically based and aimed at increasing the student's confidence and proficiency. Each student is different, therefore lessons proceed at the student's own pace and are tailored according to their needs, in a nurturing and relaxed atmosphere.

Glen recognizes that whilst some students are deeply interested in Indian classical music and wish to learn the different roles of tabla within that idiom, others prefer to take a modern approach and mix tabla outside of the Indian music context. Glen enjoys working with the student to direct them to their goals.

To contact Glen about performances or tabla lesson bookings, please click here.



Learning traditional tabla

Tabla has two main roles in Indian music, it is either used for rhythmic accompaniment, or it may take centre stage in "tabla lehera" ( tabla solo). These are two quite different approaches to tabla, though they do overlap in many ways. For instance, it is essential to learn solo repertoire to develop technique and to help one to acquire sufficient depth for playing accompaniment. To establish the basic foundation for either of these roles, the student begins by learning the different "Taals", or time cycles used in Indian classical music. Then there is the "Theka" or rhythmic pattern for each given Taal, which is played on tabla.

In addition to this foundation, the student may learn compositions from the vast ocean of solo tabla repertoire, such as Peshkar, Kaida, Rela, Tukra, Gat, and Chakradar. These are taught with detailed care and attention to technical precision and clarity of tone, and with clear insights into the methods of improvisation within the "theme and variation" compositional types. Through focused practicing of this material, the student acquires proficiency and discovers their own unique musicality, expressed through a highly refined and beautiful system of improvisation and composition. With this combined practical knowledge of materials, the tabla student is then equipped to play tabla in a variety of different traditional situations.




Lessons for non-tabla players

Vocalists who are interested to integrate the spoken language of tabla into their own music are welcome to have lessons, as are instrumentalists who wish to understand the rhythmic compositions and structures of North Indian Classical music.



Gharana means "household", or family tradition. In Northern India there evolved six main gharanas of tabla playing; Delhi, Ajrara, Lucknow, Farukhabad, Benaras and Punjab. There are differences in playing technique, fingerings, tone production, repertoire, and methods of improvisation from one gharana to another, though some are more closely related than others.  Glen has focussed on both the Delhi gharana of tabla, and the Benaras gharana of tabla. He encourages the student to begin in one style and systematically develop their tabla technique and repertoire step by step, learning in the traditional aural manner. Speaking of gharana and family tradition, here are a few photos of Glen and his son Kai, who is soaking up all the tabla music in the home! Also, Kai receiving blessings from Ustad Zakir Hussain. (Check out Zakir's disciple Ty Burhoe)








Student testimonials
Lesson fees & teaching schedule

Please see the table of fees below.

Glen's teaching schedule is reasonably flexible, however weekend and evening times are in high demand, therefore lesson availability may be limited. Please click here to contact Glen and arrange a suitable lesson time.

(Please also note that there are no registration or joining fees or any other hidden costs.)


I had first learned tabla when I was a child, but it was under Glen's tutelage when I really made substantial progress in my playing.  I had a chance to learn a new style (Delhi gharana) and understand tabla more in terms of an art form.  Glen's musical sense and the way he explained the bols and rhythms, as well as the way he taught me to 'feel' the compositions, pushed me to the next level.  It was also under Glen's guidance where I performed my first full-length tabla solo recital.  I would highly recommend Glen, not only for beginners, but also for intermediate-advanced students wanting to move beyond their comfort zones and explore new horizons in their tabla playing.  Nishaant Choksi, (Kyoto Japan)

Phui Yi

Arriving from another country to pursue dedicated one-on-one study with a new teacher is daunting. Complete trust is required for a student to absorb the most from a teacher. With Glen this trust came easy because it was reciprocal. He trusted both my interest in the instrument and my commitment to daily practice, while I trusted his intuition and guidance. As a result of such a teacher-student pairing, I learnt more from Glen in two intensive months than I would have ever imagined. 

Simply put, Glen is both a loving and dedicated teacher and tabla artist with a deep passion and enthusiasm for both the instrument and the ocean of Indian Classical Music. I thank him for instilling in me not only a confidence to continue playing the tabla, but also a bond with the world of melody and rhythm that continues to colour my mind. 


Glen is an amazing tabla player as well as a very mindful teacher. Learning tabla & rhythm compositions with him was fun and easy to follow. Starting from the empty of knowledge in tabla on my first lesson until these days, I can honestly say that he is the huge inspiration that made me fall in love with this musical art and want to become a tabla player. -- Pree Nakaprawing (Melbourne 2008)




I took tabla lessons from Glen in Melbourne between 2012 and 2014. Glen has extensive knowledge of tabla material ranging from Delhi and Benares Gharanas, and has been playing tabla professionally for more than 15 years. He is also an excellent and patient teacher.


My Experience of learning tabla and Indian Classical Music from Glen has been very rewarding. Glen is able to draw from his knowledge and many years of experience, to help students to understand complex technique, styles and compositions. He is also a very patient teacher and true to authentic traditions of learning Indian Classical Music. 


I started learning tabla from Glen Kniebeiss in 2003. His knowledge of all the vast complexities of tabla - both solo and as accompaniment - is very extensive. He also knows a lot about the whole of Indian music and its place in Indian culture. I have seen him perform many times with touring international artists. His performances always manage to balance a certain restraint with the explosive creativity that typifies good tabla playing. As a teacher he is both demanding and yet patient, and his enthusiasm and attention to detail offer the opportunity of quick progress for the keen student.  


My name is Sarath, from Melbourne Australia. I first learned to play Tabla when I was 5 years old in Sri Lanka.  I have had traditional teachers following Guru Shishya Parampara in Sri Lanka. They were educated in Bhathkande University in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh India, the most prestigious music university. They were traditional teachers who were passing on their knowledge and experience to dedicated students with a strong spiritual element. 

Many years later I met Glenji in Melbourne, I believe it was my destiny to meet him. Glenji is a teacher who has worked extremely hard to learn the art of Tabla to add a new element to his Bachelor degree in western music, Jazz and contemporary. I was very impressed by his knowledge of Hindustani music theory and exemplary Tabla performance techniques.

Glenji teaches the ancient art of Tabla in the traditional way as my past traditional teachers, with true dedication and devotion with true intention of educating the art of Tabla. Also he can combine his immense western music knowledge to express the oriental art of Tabla. My experience as one of his disciples was very enjoyable and it was an immense improvement of my practicing techniques and performing.  He is also very proficient in maintaining the instrument and repairing. Each time I sit down to practice, I pay homage to Glenji and my past teachers. 


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